The Belmont Tea goes back 10 or 12 years now, when I first started paying more attention to the Triple Crown than I had for a long time. I remember watching Secretariat and Seattle Slew each winning the Crown a mere three years apart, but there's a lot more attention paid to the Kentucky Derby most years, because the likelihood of one horse winning all three races is pretty small--the last time was in 1977, a year after Seattle Slew, by Affirmed.
None the less, there have been a number of years where a horse has one the first two races, signalling at least a pie in the sky hope that there could be a Triple Crown winner. And that's where the Belmont Tea comes from.
I am a native New Yorker, and I lived in New York for the first 23 years of my life. I was living in New York City when Secretariat won, so, with a horse up for the Triple Crown, I decided to host an afternoon tea to watch the Belmont Stakes. Girls only. Hats encouraged. So far, we have had disappointing races but pretty good food.
From left, Sharon, Kerry, Jess, Deb, Barbara, Betina, Laurie, Lorien, Erin, Maria, Maria, Mary, Liz.
California Chrome gave us the excuse this year, coupling the Belmont with my now 23 years as a California resident. It was the first Belmont Tea in the new house because the potential party was thwarted two years ago by scratching the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness a day or two before the third race.
I encourage my guests to bring a dish and I try to do the basics of scones, lemon curd, and a variety of sandwiches, but the more other people bring, the less I have to make and the more I get to enjoy my own party. I'm also more than happy to welcome help in the kitchen when I need to finish up the prep, and this year was no exception. While I had made the chicken salad, sliced and salted the cucumbers, and boiled eggs for egg salad sandwiches, I was still putting sandwiches together when people arrived. In came the volunteers, and I found myself wondering for the umpteenth time how I ever was able to hold a party in the old house with its galley kitchen and lack of counter space.
I am grateful to Laurie Perry who brought Walnut and White Chocolate Scones, which were the hit of the party, since I never did get around to baking my recipe for plain scones. Susan Ellison, true Brit that she is, put the cucumber sandwiches together. Laurie pitched in and made the egg salad and then she and Barbara Hambly built egg salad sandwiches and the chicken salad sandwiches. Liz Mortensen made tomato and mozzerella sandwiches, and Kerry Glover brought tuna sandwiches. It takes a long time to trim crust from bread, but I am happy I can go to Bea's Bakery in Tarzana to get Pullman loaves of various kinds and get them sliced very thin.
My friend Lynn Latham scheduled a trip in from New Orleans to make it for the tea. She made her mother's pimento cheese sandwiches, a true Southern dish. Jess stuffed cucumbers with a spicy shrimp filling. Other friends brought fruit and cakes and we made 4 or 5 different kinds of tea, including a large dispenser of hibiscus iced tea.
Over the years, I've been collecting snack sets so people can have a dish with a place for their tea cups. I'm rather obsessed with them, actually. I have triangular milk glass snack sets for 30 people, as well as ones with floral decorations, and I recently picked up three which have horses on them! When looking for tea pots with horses, I found a beautiful set of dishes with Arabian horses, and shortly before the Belmont Tea I splurged and bought the tea pot, sugar bowl and creamer. So pretty. I found antique frosted Libby Tom Collins glasses with bounding horses a few years ago. They make great iced tea glasses. I also have found collector's glassware from a number of different years for the three races. They use the logo art for the particular year and usually have a list of all the winners of that race printed on the back. They all identify the horses that won the Triple Crown (and I've got one glass that lists only them.) Do you know how many horses have won the Triple Crown?* Can you name them?**
From left, Sharon, Deb, Barbara, Betina, Laurie, Lorien, Erin.
From left, Lorien, Erin, Maria, Maria, Mary, Liz, Kathryn, Lynn, Susan.
*Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown.
**Sir Barton, Galant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed. The only jockey to win the Triple Crown twice is Eddie Arcaro, on Whirlaway and Citation, both from owner/breeder Calumet Farm--the horses were trained, respectively, by Ben Jones and his son Horace Jones. The only other owner/breeder to win twice was Belair Stud with Galant Fox and Omaha--both trained by Jim Fitzsimmons.